Monday, July 28, 2014

Making Art for Me

When I decided to do art it was because I didn't want a job that was just some kind of boring task. I didn't choose art because I was incompetent at everything else. I have always been pretty good at most things. I just wanted to pick a plan for my life that would fulfill two major requirements. The first, is that I needed to be able to do it from home so that I could stay at home with my kids. The second, is that I needed something that I could always enjoy doing no matter how long I do it.

Art is something that I do for me. I love being creative and productive. I genuinely enjoy being able to work away on something that I find interesting. The free form way that art is made works well with the way I function as a stay at home parent. I can pick what I want to make, I can decided how many hours I want to dedicate to it. I get to make all of the decisions. There is nothing that can hold me back.

My art had become my personal time. I know that I still have to be a parent, but it gives me time to listen to my own mind on things. I am lucky that my kid likes his own independant play time during the day. We each get to work on our own stuff. He will build towers, and I will paint. It is relaxing for us to spend afternoons like this. I get to be there for him without stifling him and his own creative experience, all while I get to have my much needed individual time to create.

Everybody has different needs from life and from each other. Because each family and person is different we all have to make decisions that work for us. My art was a decision that worked for me and my family.

When we pick a direction in life we should only have ourselves in mind, then everything else will fall into place. The expectations of others my help us decided what is important to us, but should never decided for us. You pick what works for you, because you have to live this life. Living a life according to another person's expectations or even pace can be just as detrimental as self harm.

I love my family. I grew up in my parent's house living according to their pace, and requirements just like any other child would with their family. I was okay living that way, but now as an adult I have learned that not all of the things that worked for my parents work for me. I have learned that I function at a different pace, and have different needs than they do. They function the way that works best for them, and I am learning to function the way that works best for me. Living someone else's' life will only wear you out. You must live who you are, not who everyone thinks you should be.

We are all individuals, and because of that we have to live as individuals. With different moods, strengths, and weaknesses we cannot live like any other person does.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Taking a Nap

There was a fear that I had when I stopped working, that I would have so much time on my hands I wouldn't know what to do with all of it. For the first year of unemployment I really didn't have much to fill my time up with. I would spend the day trying to invent things to fill up my time. Some days I would take a walk, or wonder around stores, or maybe just play around in my sketch book. I didn't really have a direction.

As I have spent more and more time as a stay at home mom I have added to my plate of responsibility till now, I have filled up that void of time. I have a kid to watch. I work on my art daily. I teach art, have church responsibilities, go to play dates, and try to maintain an orderly house. It is all great. I have systems and schedules that keep all of this together and for the most part things run smoothly.

Lately though I have added too much to my day all at once. It works for a while but it kind of ends up like this ( ). I like to have responsibilities. It makes me feel not only productive but also important, like I am needed. I love the accomplished feeling that I get when I have done all of the things on my to do list. It is kind of like a high of some sort. The good feeling of accomplishment can be addictive to me.

Sadly, I can only keep this up for so long before I begin to burn out. There will come a time where I will eventually have to give into the fact that I cannot keeping going any more. People wear out, just like any machine part we are not meant to run on full blast forever without repercussions. None of this is helped by my cat who seems to think she needs to tickle my face with her whiskers at 3:30am every day.

So, I have been taking naps rather than spending more time on my art. Not that I have neglected doing art all together, I just haven't been working on it as much as I could have.

Taking a nap makes me feel guilty. I feel guilty for both logical and illogical reasons. I don't like the fact that I am wasting waking hours with sleep. I could be active and productive, but my body just doesn't want to. The other reason that I feel bad for taking a nap really doesn't make sense. I feel bad, because people all over the world are working right now, and I am just being lazy here taking a nap. I shouldn't be such a bum when other people are out and being productive contributing to society.

I know that naps are probably not the best use of my time. I also know that the kind of guilt I feel for napping is ridiculous. I just need to find a balance. I need to find a way to maybe nap every once in a while, to keep from burning out, but also stay productive so that I don't feel so guilty for taking breaks.

I am continually reminded that I must find balance in my life. The only way to keep going is to go slow and steady, then I will keep from crashing. Burning low and slow is better than fast and bright, so that you don't run out of fuel so fast.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I make mistakes all the time. Mistakes are not the same a failure, but they can be just as discouraging. Mistakes mean that you have to do more work than you originally intended. Mistakes can be defeating and are often the difference between success and failure.

The thing about mistakes is, that unlike a failure where there is little positive to be found at the end, a mistake is like an ellipsis. It is like a pause where you can fix, change direction, and even improve the finished product. Though you may not have made what you had planned on making, you have still made something, and you can still change it because you are not complete.

This week I was working on my commision piece that I started last week. I don't often paint humans and thus I don't often mix up flesh toned paint. I have always had difficulty matching flesh tones. it is much more precise than any other colors, because as people we spend all day looking at the flesh toned faces of other people, and just like being able to tell the physical differences between a set of identical twins we can discern the slight differences between the flesh tones of all individuals. This is part of why I spend so much time painting scenery and monsters, because people don't really have as vast a color vocabulary for those things as they do with skin.

So I was painting my luchador. He is for once human (as far as we can tell) under the mask, and being human has, well, skin. I mixed up quickly a skin tone color and blocked in where his torso would be, and then, because I hate painting flesh, moved onto his mask and pants leaving the skin alone for a couple of days. When I came back I realize that I had not really created a tone that matched the face of the man in the original painting. So I applied another layer of paint hoping this one would be better.

Feeling much more confident that I had done better this time, matching the skin tones, I immediately filled in the details of the torso giving him abs and pecs and belly button. I let it dry and came back a little later, only to my dismay, did I realize that I had still not matched the skin tone as well as I had expected.

This was incredibly disappointing to me as I thought I had worked hard enough to get it right, and I should just deserve for it to be right, even if I hadn't really gotten right. (If that sentence makes sense to you then kudos.) If I were to spend all day with full conviction and effort trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole, it still isn't going to change the answer. It just doesn't work. And just because I put all that effort into making it fit, doesn't mean I deserve the answer to change simple because I tried. It doesn't matter just how you look at it and how hard try, there is a right and wrong answer and you cannot make a wrong a right even if you think you earned it.

I could have just left it that way, but then would I have really put in the effort needed to make this piece a success? What would I feel towards this painting if I did just leave it? I realized that if I were to just leave it this way that I would always see the bad color matching job I had done and come in the end to actually resent this piece because of its failings.

So for a third time I attempted to match the skin of this luchador. Since I was putting in the effort to repeat my work for a third time I wanted to get it right this time. I didn't want all of this effort to be for nothing. This mistake forced me to see the skin tones of the original differently than I had been looking at them before. I started to see the layers of color, and the wonderful workmanship that was put into the original piece. This time I was able, as well as I could with my limited color pallet to match the skin of the original figure.

This taught me something about mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities for improvement. For whatever reason that the mistake was made in the first place it gives us a moment to pause and assess our work. Whether we made the mistake on accident, or due to our lack of skill mistakes are what make our work interesting. They can give us better ideas, or show us new strategies, or if anything they can give us the motivation to try harder and make it right. I had, had such a hard time matching the color of the original because I hadn't really looked at the original the right way to understand the colors that had been used. The two mistakes I had made in color were soon repaired by my new understanding of the color in the piece. I came away with a new ability to see, because of my mistakes.

Mistakes are not bad. They happen all the time and we should use them to improve ourselves rather than to prove that we are no good. They are not evidence that we are bad at something, but that we have potential for something and that we are working towards becoming great.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New School

If you have read my past posts you will know that I don't completely appreciate my college education. I learned many things that don't really apply to life; like how to pass a test and then immediately forget all of the substance, or how to show up to class but not really learn anything. Going to school also made me a bit dependant upon having an assignment. I am not very good about creating something from scratch. I rarely have completely original ideas and working with the constraints of an assignment has always helped me to form ideas.

I am still not sure how I feel about this. I like that I know how to direct my artistic thought process so that I can create something, but I don't like the fact that I have to depend on parameters and outlines in order to come up with something and that I am unable to come up with something new without them. I don't know how other peoples' artistic process works, so I have know idea if this is a common way of working, or if I am handicapping myself by my need for assignment type work. I think that this need for rules and guidelines has been part of my creative dysfunction lately. I have been trying to create something new but things just weren't coming because I didn't have any of these assignment type requirements.

I feel like this is why I love the thrift store pieces so much. I don't have to decide what size to make the piece, or what color pallet I want to use. My creativity has to work within the already established space of the piece that I find. This gives me the kind of direction that I need in order to fill the space in. The structure of the process reins in all of the half baked ideas that I may have and helps me to focus on something specific enough to actually be completed. I love working this way. It is how I function best.

So when I got a request for a custom order I got excited. I was contacted a while ago for a custom piece of art. It was wonderful. I could lay out rules and outlines for the piece that were to fulfill the need of the customer. I was givin sizing, subject matter, and even material requests. I can work with that, and I have embraced every moment of this piece.

It has been nice to be able to take a moment and relive my college days. I have been allowed to just fulfill an assignment. It is almost like taking another mini vacation. I know I just took a break to build a pinata, but this time I am being both productive and taking a mental break.

I don't know if this kind of indulgence is good for my overall personal growth. What do we really know about the creative process in general to be able understand if this kind of work is positive or negative. All I know is that has been great getting to work on an assignment again, and also have more encouragement that people like my work.

My current assignment in progress.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer distractions

Summer is one giant distraction. I have a ton of stuff that I want to get done before we get too close to the holidays again. That means that this stuff has to get done now, because if I wait to get working on it I will not get it done in time. Much of the art I make is for family and friends as gifts. This means that I have to be prepared for the holidays. The thing is that summer is the busiest time of the year for me.

I don't work, but I do live forever away from my family. This means that while they spend the school year working and being productive I don't have as much going on in my life, so I can work on my art. This also means that during the summer when it is time for me to buckle down, and get stuff done that has building up throughout the year, I get all kinds of visits. This can become distracting. Having family in town can be fun but also, well, distracting.

There are all kinds of other things about the nature of summer that create distractions in my life. I have a rather energetic kid that demands to go out all of the time or he will drive me crazy. Then because it is summer it is hot. That is a given. This means that when I go out I have to go prepared. I must have skin protection, a change of clothes, bathing suit, towel, snacks, hydration of some sort. All of this extra stuff I have to have and haul around makes me so much more tired at the end of the day that when it comes time to get to work on my art I have less motivation.

There has been so much going on lately that even this post has come days late. I knew all week what I wanted to write about, but because of the distractions and schedule changes and stuff, it got pushed to the last minute.

I could use a little down time to find my artistic zen. Sometime I don't need a vacation to relax, I just need to return to some kind of scheduling normalicy to regain my composure.

Oh well, it only lasts a couple months of the year then I can go back to a more tame version of my life.